Networking

Review: Jitsi the ultimate SIP voice and video client

Jitsi lets you audio and video conference on your terms using your own private SIP server or any SIP service.

Clearly, Skype is the world's most popular voice and video chat client and it supports a wide variety of platforms. But if you are looking for an alternative that affords you privacy and more control, Jitsi is the answer. Touted by security conscious netizens like the Tor Project's own Jacob Appelbaum as an ideal alternative to proprietary software like Skype, Jitsi lets you audio and video conference on your terms using your own private Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) server or any SIP service.

Cross-platform

Jitsi is written in Java for cross-platform compatibility with other operating systems. Although this can translate into a slightly sluggish experience and a rather bland user interface, the software is remarkably flexible in its own right. In addition to supporting traditional SIP for online communications, Google Talk's protocol (XMPP) is also supported out of the box for audio and video chats as well as AIM, ICQ, Facebook, Yahoo and MSN. Jitsi also provides a means to encrypt VoIP traffic using SRTP or ZRTP encryption methods, which is something Skype doesn't provide and is a rarity amongst most SIP / VoIP clients today.

With the emergence of IPv6 connectivity, Jitsi is capable of initiating direct connect VoIP sessions, simply by providing the appropriate IPv6 address of the machine to connect to. For anyone behind NAT on a home router using IPv4 connections, tunnel brokers that provide IPv4 to IPv6 address translation can be used to get around pesky limitations imposed by NAT. Basically, this means that anyone from outside your network will typically have no problem reaching you.

As far as downsides go, the only issue I see with Jitsi, at least on the SIP side of the equation, is that SIP isn't nearly as commonplace as something like Skype and it may require additional VoIP configuration knowhow. With XMPP support available, at least Jitsi users can leverage their Google contacts right out of the box and get an experience similar to a more traditional SIP setup. Obviously though, Google will have access to your conversation data, whereby setting up a true SIP session gives you more control over your privacy.

Bottom line

For what it's worth, Jitsi is a fairly decent VoIP and chat client. Though not as shiny looking as its proprietary competitor Skype, Jitsi is still worth giving a try. It's free and if you don't have a resource-constrained system, the software should suit your online communication needs fairly nicely. Just be sure that you have the latest version of Oracle's Java Runtime Environment for best results. With Microsoft taking control of Skype and casting doubt on its future as a cross-platform service as well as the possibility of a programmed "back door" into the network, Jitsi could potentially fill the void nicely as an eventual replacement.

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An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

8 comments
allanroger
allanroger

Additionally, I would also like to add RHUB web conferencing servers for conducting online meetings. It provides HD VOIP audio conferencing and 15 way HD video conferencing.

emgub
emgub

There's a lot of room for improvement, even for free SIP softphones which support encryption, such as LinPhone.  Does it minimize battery drain?  Does it intercept the phone's dialpad for a transparent VOIP experience? etc... etc...

Okidata
Okidata

"With the emergence of IPv6 connectivity, Jitsi is capable of initiating direct connect VoIP sessions, simply by providing the appropriate IPv6 address of the machine to connect to."

No, it is not. That has been completely broken for years, and the latest bug tracker for it was opened just last month:

 https://java.net/jira/browse/JITSI-1166

GreyGeek77
GreyGeek77

prevents me from using my gmail contact list. Initially, it offered me Google Voice and populated the contact list with both my chat contacts and my voice contacts. The connection was broken immediately when the call recipient picked up the call. After that, the voice.google.com register would fail to connect. I also noticed one gvoice contact that and a red circle with a slash through it, so I used the delete option to remove it. That act immediately hung Jitsi, probably because it also crashed my wireless router connection. When I restored my wireless connection and fired up Jitsi the Google Voice account hung. So, I deleted it. When I attempted to add it again the only contacts that came in where the chat contacts. The register was now talk.google.com, and the google voice option was nowhere to be found. However, Jitsi works fine with my Diamondcard.us account.

beccon
beccon

SIP is quite wide spread - at least here in Germany: As the telco providers increasingly switch landlines to VoIP - SIP is the way they go. I have my Jitsi connected to my VoIP PBX (which is part of my Fritzbox - a popular consumer router here) - so I can take and issue phone calls on my landline number using Jitsi. Isn't it cool.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What tools are you using for VoIP video conferencing? Have you tried Jitsi? Do you recommend it?

zerubbabel
zerubbabel

How did you get Jitsi to work with Diamondcard.us? I can't get it to connect, and the Diamondcard.us folks can't seem to help me. Can you tell me what settings you used?

Matt Nawrocki
Matt Nawrocki

Thanks for sharing your situation with SIP. Here in the USA, traditional landlines are still the norm for some, especially in rural areas where cable, DSL and even cellular have next to no penetration in these parts. Even so, I think the knowledge of SIP by Americans is lower in general, even in places where VoIP is prevalent, given that most folks will use prepackaged solutions like Vonage or Comcast that don't really require fancy configuration or whatnot.

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